5 Tips Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Trademark Law

Ivan Clark 2016-04-22 19:00:00

Trademark law isn't something that a lot of people think about. However, trademark law has dominated business headlines this month, particularly a David and a Goliath case in China.

One of the most reported stories this month has been between Apple and Xintong Tiani Technology. Apple had accused Xintong Tiandi Technology of infringing upon a trademark. The small Chinese firm had been selling wallets, handbags and smartphone cases that all beared the name "IPHONE." Apple didn't like this so it filed a lawsuit. However, a Beijing court ruled in favor of the small business, but Apple has pledged to request a retrial in the next few months.

For any entrepreneur, small business or large corporation, copyright and trademark laws are essential. A trademark can be just as essential and valuable as a million-dollar client. Trademark symbols - ™ and ® - that hang over the end of each name suggests time, energy and investment into a product. So when a competitor infringes upon these trademarks it can lead to dire consequences for the alleged violator - and it's very common in today's global economy.

As an entrepreneur or innovator, you're likely wondering how you can protect your product or brand through trademarking. Well, here are five tips you need to know about trademark law.

Are You Sure It's Really Yours?

Not knowing you infringed upon a trademark is certainly not a defense. Prior to registering a trademark or claiming that someone infringed upon your trademark, you have to ensure that it's really yours. If not then you'll waste money on legal costs and ultimately embarrass your brand.

To find out, conduct clearance research and perform simple searches. The former helps before you trademark your brand, while the latter is important after you filed for a trademark (this can be done through Google Alerts). When it comes to trademark law, it's all about the research.

Have a Lawyer From the Beginning

It may be hard for any budding entrepreneur, but having a lawyer from the beginning is essential. Experts warn that businesses, both big and small, can be accused of "trademark bullying," which is when companies accuse others of violating the trademark, which may or may not be accurate. To avoid such incidents, search out for a lawyer before and layout your case. You will want a responsible and dedicated lawyer like Hoffer Adler LLP to handle your trademark law case.

Select a Trademark You Can Shield

When you're choosing a trademark, you'll have to realize that not all of the names or words may be trademarked or protected as such. Therefore, you'll need to subject your potential trademark into various categories. For instance, something generic will not have trademark protection, and neither is something descriptive. However, something that is fanciful, suggestive or arbitrary can offer you a larger scope of trademark protection. It all depends on your business and the name.

Registration is Only the Beginning

You'll have to be remember one thing: registering your trademark is just the start of the rigorous process. This is similar to conducting simple searches to determine others aren't in violation of your trademark. Trademark monitoring is crucial to avoid the destruction of your brand and even losing out on exclusive rights completely. You'll also have to consider trademark law if you start to work or expand your product or service on foreign territory. Trademark law is always active.

Maintain Trademark Protection as You Grow

Since you're an astute, determined and hard working entrepreneur, it's likely that your business will grow. But as you grow you have to ensure that you're maintaining your trademark protection. As you establish new products, offer new services or present new marketing campaigns, you'll have to perform new clearance searches and even file new trademark registrations or supplemental registration to avert any gaps in protection or risk management.

In today's globalized economy, it can be easy to be in violation of certain trademark laws. When you're in business, you have to be cautious of protecting your trademark and to be up-to-date of others' trademarks (ever watch John Oliver's segment on patent trolls?). By employing the aforementioned tips, you don't have to worry about trademark law and can instead focus on what you do best: innovating the marketplace, making money and satisfying the consumer.

For closing thoughts, watch the aforementioned segment on patent trolls in the below video:

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